Activists protest S.Korea's HIV testing for foreign workersNotice the mention made of a 'migrants' trade union'. The name of this union is the Migrants' Trade Union (MTU), and their site is here. The Seoul High Court recognized their right to form a union in January 2007, but this decision was appealed by the government, and the case is pending. So this Korea Herald article from last week isn't quite correct:
By AFP - Tue Dec 1, 9:06 AM PST
SEOUL (AFP) - Activists Tuesday filed a petition with South Korea's human rights watchdog, seeking an end to mandatory HIV tests for some foreign workers.
A group representing HIV carriers, a migrants' trade union and three other rights groups said in their petition that the policy breaches the rights of migrant workers, according to the National Human Rights Commission which received the document.
Foreign applicants must prove they do not have HIV to qualify for work in the entertainment sector or low-skilled industries in South Korea. But local workers are not required to do so, Amnesty International says.
South Korea also requires HIV testing of would-be language teachers from overseas.
The Ministry of Labour obliges all low-skilled work applicants to submit physical examination results including HIV testing in their countries of origin. Upon arrival in South Korea, they are tested a second time for HIV and if positive are subject to deportation, Amnesty said in a report published in October.
Such practices are "in breach of the rights to human worth and dignity and rights to work" the five groups said in the petition filed to coincide with World AIDS Day. They said discrimination against foreigners on grounds of nationality, social status or illness was in breach of the constitution.
"According to South Korea's AIDS prevention law, a person's consent is required before testing for HIV. But foreign workers are made to receive health checks without being informed that they include a HIV test," Youn Gabriel, the head of Nanuri+, an HIV carriers' group, said.
"Even foreigners who have received work permits are deported from the country if they test positive for HIV," Youn was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency. More than 600 foreigners have been forced to leave since the late 1980s, he said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has urged South Korea to remove emigration and immigration controls on foreigners with HIV, noting it is one of 12 countries in the world with such restrictions.
A group of foreign nationals working in Korea has formed a labor union, the law firm representing them said Tuesday, in a first for the country, according to Yonhap news.Actually, there was another attempt by foreign English teachers to unionize back in 2001 or 2002 which resulted in the presence of gangsters and riot police outside the hagwon, if I remember correctly. That story just popped into my head now - I'll see if I can track down more information.
Five foreign lecturers working at an educational institute in Incheon, west of Seoul, received approval from local authorities on Nov. 24 to launch the union, according to the firm. Its members later increased to nine.
As for the MTU, they posted this on their site:
Today, we got 'Concluding observations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights' on S.Korea. [A]mong the recommendations,The last sentence was certainly seen as good news by the MTU. It goes on to list other recommendations by the Committee, including the following:
20. The Committee is concerned that migrant workers are subject to exploitation, discrimination and unpaid wages.
The Committee recommends that the Employment Permit System that has already recognized migrant workers as workers entitled to Labour Law protection be further reviewed. The Committee recommends that particular attention be paid to the fact that the three month period stipulated for a change in job is highly insufficient. This is especially true in the current economic situation, in which migrant workers often have little choice but to accept jobs with unfavorable work conditions just to remain regular. The Committee further recommends that the State party uphold the High Court’s decision to grant legal status to the Migrants’ Trade Union. [Emphasis added]
23. The Committee is concerned that, notwithstanding the fact that the State party legislation penalizes trafficking not only for prostitution or sexual exploitation but for any profit purpose, a high number of women and children continue to be trafficked from, through and within the country for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour, especially women workers originally arriving on an E6 visa (entertainment). The Committee is particularly concerned about the low number of prosecutions and convictions of traffickers. (Art. 10)Well, they needn't worry about monitoring E6 visas. As noted here, when Immigration announced it was considering removing HIV tests from the E9 and E2 visa application process, it was announced that
The Committee recommends that the State party intensify its efforts to combat trafficking in human beings, especially women and children, for any purpose, inter alia, by:
(a) strengthening monitoring of issuance of E6 visas
"There will be no changes for E-6 visa applicants. We do not deal with non-professional workers as the Labor Ministry is responsible for AIDS tests on E-9 visa applicants," Ahn Kyu-seok, the KIS spokesman told the Korea Times.It's hard to see such a quick dismissal of changes for E-6 visa applicants regarding HIV testing as anything but an acknowledgment that the E-6 visa is being used for sex work.
It's good to see migrant workers challenging HIV testing as being discriminatory. What would be even more interesting would be seeing E-6 visa holders doing the same thing, as it might shine a light on the open secret of that visa's use in importing foreign sex workers.